Last Night's TV: Marco's Great British Feast, ITV1
Celebrity Masterchef, BBC1

He could do with a slice of humble pie

"How do I make a fish pie in 15 minutes, aggravation-free? It's very simple." Yeah, well it is if you're Marco Pierre White. Your food stylist has already prepped all the main ingredients. The baby leeks have been washed and trimmed, the cheese grated, the fish neatly filleted and a cumulonimbus of downy mash is waiting ready to be spooned over the top of the assembled pie. No dirty pans, no steamy kitchen and no bloody aggravation, unless, that is, you get wound up by celebrity chefs pontificating airily about how easy cooking can be. How did I get this cross, though? We're not very far into Marco's Great British Feast and already I'm simmering away like a pint of double cream on the back burner. I've simply taken against him, in the way that one sometimes does when watching a television presenter, but since there's another 700 words to go I can't just throw the zapper at the screen and calm down. I've got to try and pin down why.

The rhetorical questions don't help, I think, a pompous tic that momentarily seems to imply that your opinion might actually be of interest to the questioner and then slams a door in your face by making it clear that his answer is the only one that matters. "Had I gone on this journey 10 years ago, would I have given them a say?" Marco asked, explaining that his quest for a purely British menu would include listening to the opinions of humble punters. "The answer is no," he concluded (though in the event, the difference between 10 years ago and today turned out to be not nearly as great as he was implying). Where some television presenters convey the feeling that they can't wait to share their enthusiasm with you, Marco effectively suggests that you're going to just have to sit still until he's finished what he's got to say. There's a flat, my-way-or-the-highway tone to his delivery that is mildly disconcerting at first but mounts to outright irritation, particularly if you're reckless enough to actually listen to what he's saying. "What better way of celebrating their life than by eating them?" he asked at one point, after shooting the main ingredients for his rabbit stockpot. I think rabbit's delicious, but even I could see that there were answers the rabbit might prefer.

What really got up my nose, though – lodged painfully up somewhere around the sinuses – was the programme's grandiose suggestion that it was in the vanguard of a culinary revolution, rather than belatedly bringing up the rear. "I am putting myself out there to fight for what I believe in," said Marco, as the opening credits showed him stalking across the South Downs to plant a giant Union flag on Beachy Head. The implication was that it was down to Marco to battle the shameful neglect of native bounty. "Every chef in Britain wants to go French," he said in tones of exasperation. "I don't get it." He must know that this isn't true, that there's actually been a great resurgence in domestic cooking recently, led by virtually every chef except Marco Pierre White, whose fidelity to French technique and style is well known. And if his belligerent self-regard had blinded him to that fact, the producers of the series were surely well aware that the road they were travelling had already been exhaustively mapped by Rick Stein in his Food Heroes programmes or the regional chefs competing in the BBC's Great British Menu series.

"What I'm looking for is realness," Marco had promised us at the outset. "I want realness on the plate, I want realness of the produce and I want realness of people's views." But it turned out that only views that were really approving were welcome. After a group of food historians gave his first trial dishes a lukewarm reception, Marco – with a graciousness that appears to be entirely characteristic of him – tore up the comments on camera and dismissed the group with an insult. "They looked like the Addams family," he muttered sulkily. He's a genius in the kitchen, though. He should get back in there.

Very few of the competitors in Celebrity MasterChef seem to have caught up with the British food movement yet, still getting all Pacific Rim and fusion the moment the ingredients will permit them. Indeed, the closest we got to a home-grown recipe last night was Joe McGann cooking colcannon. This series can irritate a little, too, usually when it artificially stacks the odds against a stand-out contestant so that it won't look like too much of a foregone conclusion, as they did with Andi Peters last night. But it does at least give some sense of what it is like to cook for real, assailed by lunatic inspirations and learning to live with the distressing gap between what you imagine the finished dish might look and taste like and the compromised reality that actually ends up on the plate.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there